SecretAgentMan™ (front-matter)


The Life & Times of Lawrence R. Howard
by Richard Saunders


SecretAgentMan takes place on anEarthlike planet within a parallel universe . . . .



A Superhero for the new Millennium

In ancient times, forces of evil gathered from distant corners of the universe, united in their quest to achieve a common goal. From this unholy alliance emerged the plan to launch a full-scale assault for control of the planet Earth, one of only a handful of true gems in the entire Univial.

God, in her infinite wisdom, anointed one spirit to lead the defense, sending the chosen one on a journey of seemingly endless incarnations. In each lifetime he will acquire a small portion of the strength, knowledge and wisdom that he will need to repel the invading storm. Some say there are signs the assault is near; whisperers claim that the defender, an ordinary mortal, walks among us.

Introducing L. Ron Howard

February, 1956. Ten months after the death of Albert Einstein, Lawrence Ronald Howard is born at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, Massachusetts. An average looking child, he gave no outward sign that behind innocent blue eyes, his mind burned with genius.

He will spend a lifetime walking a tightrope, blindly negotiating the dark narrow corridor between brilliance and madness. Unaware that he is guided by forces unseen, Ron embarks on a strategy to hide his genius, to cloak it behind a facade of ordinariness.

To the outside world he is everyman, a simple tradesman without an estate. In truth, he is a giant of his time. Using little more than the power of his own mind he profoundly alters the scientific and political landscape of the twentieth and twenty first centuries.

As the third Millennium approaches, his fiercest challenger beckons. It is revealed to Ron that his spirit has been groomed to defend the planet against an all out assault by the forces of evil. A reluctant warrior, he will emerge from the shadows to accept his fate and assume the role he was born to fulfill.

At the dawn of a new era, one man stands in the way of Lucifer’s greatest triumph

A Star is Born

SecretAgentMan was born in the restless mind of nine-year-old Richard Saunders in 1965. Rich spent much of that year living in a fantasy world occupied by heroic characters from television,literature, religion, movies and comic books. Overwhelmed by creative impulses,young Saunders schemed to invent a Superhero of his own, one who could compete with and defeat any foe, real or imagined.

In developing this project, Rich decided that his protagonist should be restricted to the powers of a mortal man.Starting with a reincarnated Albert Einstein, Saunders added characteristics from John Drake, Harry Houdini, James Bond, and Fred Demara to his model. The first incarnation of SecretAgentMan on paper occurred in October, 1965 and consisted of a single four-panel comic strip. This original strip has been preserved and today it lies in a secret underground storage vault located somewhere on public land in New Hampshire.

The moniker L. Ron Howard was firstapplied in 1968. The L. represents Lawrence, the Massachusetts textile-milltown where both Saunders and Demara spent their formative years. Saunders was fascinated by the real-life story of The Great Impostor. His family had a direct connection to this world-famous persona. Saunder's grandfather had rented an apartment in his multi-family-home to the Demara family and Rich's grandmother often baby sat the young impostor. When Rich saw the film in 1967, he was surprised to find both his school and church prominently featured in this major Hollywood movie. Tony Curtis played the impostor and Karl Malden played the pastor of St. Augustine'schurch. Rich was very impressed, to say the least. He was also inspired. A week after seeing the movie, Rich checked the book out of the Lawrence Public library and devoured it in one sitting.

The following paragraph was excerpted from The Great Impostor by Robert Crichton, (Random House, 1959)

"It can’t be said that Lawrence produces impostors but it can be argued that if a person has some bent toward impostoring and the roots for it are there, they couldn't find a better place for them to seize hold and flourish. Such prosaic restraints on a boy’s lively imagination as tradition and stability were almost totally lacking in Lawrence.The situation was fluid and there were people who drowned in it every day in Lawrence."

That was all the encouragement that Rich needed. He knew in that instant that he would dedicate himself to becoming an impostor and Fred Demara was the standard by which he would measure his success. "Robert Crichton said that Lawrence, Massachusetts was just about the best place  in the world to learn how to become an impostor! How can a kid pass up a  chance like that" was Rich's view. "All the other kids in the world  who might want to become impostors don't have the advantage or the opportunity  that I have!”

Rich realized that it would be foolish to try to imitate some of  Demara's more dangerous impersonations. For instance; he wasn't going to be  performing surgery on anyone or putting people (besides himself) in danger (as Demara recklessly did) with his impostor  tactics.

In 1969, after seeing the movie "2001, A  Space Odyssey", 13-year-old Richard Franklin Saunders decided to wait until  after he crossed the bridge to the magical new millennium before releasing the groundbreaking literary masterwork that had become his passionate hobby.With  varying levels of energy and enthusiasm, Saunders has worked alone and in near complete secrecy, slowly and methodically evolving his characters and plotting  the epic adventure that is about to unfold on these pages.

In what can only be  described as an extraordinary accomplishment, Saunders has successfully acted  out much of his script, impersonating his protagonist in numerous real-life situations while involving many  others who had no idea what was really going on.

Soon, people like Michael Dukas, William Wilde, Don Breen, Daniel Trask, Katie Parry, Mark Bayless and countless others will know the truth behind their relationship with Mr. Saunders!

Richard Saunders has emerged from the  shadows as a huge talent, finally allowing the rest of us to enter his  previously hidden world.It is believed that this "method-written" real-life journey  of living, breathing and nurturing this project over the course of several decades, is an accomplishment that is unprecedented in the history of  literature. Please join me in  congratulating Richard Saunders for this stunning literary achievement.

Joshua Quincy


Note  from Richard Saunders: My friend Josh here is obviously way over the top.Although I appreciate his efforts, I know better than to believe my own press.I would advise that my readers take a highly skeptical attitude regarding  anything that comes out of the publicity and promotions  departments regarding this work of Fiction. Don’t believe any of it, unless someone proves to you that it is  true. Just enjoy the book and assume that it is entirely fictional. Who  cares if some of it might or might not come from real-life events? In  the final analysis, if the story fails to entertain, it isn't worth your time  and it doesn't matter what is true or not.

More  nonsense below in the Forward from my good friend Mykl Walsh. I advise you to just  skip over it, as some of what he says is repetitive or reflective of Quincy’s well-meaning narrative from above.


Richard Saunders has been a close friend  of mine since 1971. It wasn't until almost 30 years later however, that I first  realized that I didn't really know him at all. We were heading north on Interstate 93,returning home from a pleasant afternoon spent at Fenway Park in Boston. I was  driving and Rich was the only passenger left; having dropped off Eddie in Stoneham and Paul  in Methuen.

We had made the rounds of our customary and ritualized topics of  conversation when Rich slipped seamlessly into a story about his childhood.What started out sounding like an innocent and amusing anecdotal snippet from  his early youth gradually expanded into an elaborate and epic tale that nearly  left me speechless. Boiled down to its essence, here is what I learned on that  fateful Sunday in August.

In 1965 Rich decided to create a fictional  Superhero based on a loose compilation of character sets from the likes of  Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Fred Demara, John Drake, and James Bond. SecretAgentMan came to life as a 4-panel  comic strip but eventually evolved into a series of short stories, then a novel. Saunders  looked deep into the future and decided that his creation would not make its  public debut until sometime after the dawn of the third millennium.

Apparently possessed with the patience of a  saint, Rich made a list of subject areas and skills in which his Superhero would  need to possess a high level of expertise. Here comes the extraordinary part.He then endeavored to develop that expertise within himself, in order to have  the credibility he would need to make this super - character seem "real".From Astronomy to Computers & Electronics, to Magic, Martial Arts &Zen, the list was extensive, eventually containing over two-dozen entries. The  idea that any one person could hope to reach a respectable level of expertise  in so many disciplines would seem to be an impossibility to most of us. Not to  nine-year-old Richard Saunders, who, as I am still learning, is decidedly not  like the rest of us.

Comforted with the fact that he had several decades to  acquire this mother-load of knowledge and skill, he began to attack his list  with a vengeance. Proceeding methodically and steadfastly, he checked one item  after another off the list. He spent months, sometimes years concentrating  almost exclusively on a particular topic or skill until he felt that he had  reached the required level of mastery.

Honoring a self imposed vow of silence,Saunders has quietly been plotting his protagonist through a voyage in time  that spans the second half of the Twentieth Century and bridges the next. In  countless instances over these years he has taken the highly unusual step of  acting out many of his sub-plots in real life, in real time, while surreptitiously  involving others (including myself) in his plots.

His targets never had any  idea what the game was really all about. Now we know. For a fiction that is so  fantasy driven, the consistent entwinement with reality is a truly remarkable  feat. Rich defines his deliciously innovative approach to creating literature  as "method writing". Saunders has woven his tale so skillfully  into real life situations that I believe that it is now nearly impossible to  separate the facts from the fiction in the story and I challenge anyone who  reads this novel to try. The supernatural aspects are of course, all fiction,... I think;-).

I pulled my car into his driveway, my head  spinning from the revelations that I am now privy to. Rich was not done  surprising and astounding me though. He invited me in to examine "some  documents". He allowed me into his home office for the first time ever and  I had my mind scrambled even further.

To my eyes the lair was a complete mess;to Rich it was home. Books, manuscripts, newspapers & clippings, files and  folders, computers and electronic paraphernalia littered the room. Stuff was  piled on top of tables and stacked under them. Rich would pick up a particular  object and briefly explain what it was, then put it down in another spot. He  reached into a two-foot high stack of papers and effortlessly pulled out the  page he was looking for.

He was especially excited when he revealed the work  that he had done for the Pentagon's ARPA unit, something that had served to  solidify the bond with his late father more than anything else. A few items were so precious that they  deserved their own special storage space. A yellowed notebook from 1965 merited  such treatment. It contained the first time that the SecretAgentMan concept was  placed into print. Inside is the original list of skill-sets, the first  four-panel comic strip and a synopsis. The raw material for this story is  contained in thousands of pages of handwritten text, sorted by year.

From this  mountain of evidence, Saunders planned to produce his novel. In what I believe to be a brilliant stroke   of promotional genius, Saunders has sealed his "evidence" in three  carefully prepared storage lockers. A few weeks ago we began burying these "time capsules" deep into the New Hampshire soil.The GPS location of this treasure will be hidden in code within the text of the  first volume of Journey / SecretAgentMan.

What does one do when confronted with such a  startling and impressive disclosure? If you're like me you immediately begin to  think of ways that you can horn in on and profit from the situation, even if it  means taking advantage of your best friend! Numb as Novocain, I was apparently clearheaded enough to ask if I could write the forward to the novel. A few weeks  later I called Rich and told him of an idea I had about a futuristic scientific  expedition wherein astronauts descend upon a dead planet and unearth his long  hidden treasure. Rich has never refused any favor that I've asked of him and  the rest as they say ‘is History’.

From this incredible background,SecretAgentMan was born. May God bless the spirit of L. Ron Howard and may he  live forever.

Mykl Walsh

Next Chapter: Chapter One